Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

wind cast

The Wind in the Willows

Hall Green Little Theatre


Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic has been brought to splendid life in a delightful production from Hall Green’s talented youngsters.

The Wind in the Willows has been a firm favourite, never out of print since it first appeared to delight Edwardian children in 1908, with its tales of Mole, Ratty, Badger and, of course, the star, at least as far as he is concerned, Toad.

And Toad is one of the stars of this production in the . . . green . . . shape of Emily Smith who hops, bounces and races through life, or, in this case, the stage, at 100 mph as the friendly, gregarious, enthusiastic, fervent Toad . . . oh, and did I mention that Toad also has an ego the size of a small European country and thinks Modesty is some place in California.

It is a lovely performance, full of confidence and life from Emily, who was Mad Hatter in last year’s Alice in Wonderland.

Trying to keep Toad and his excesses in check, are Ratty, Mole and Badger with Ratty, a lover of picnics and boating, bringing a lovely performance from Chloe Delpino, last year’s Alice, in another assured performance.



Theo Wicking, dazzled by the daylight as Mole

Mole on the other hand is, less confident, hesitant even, only emerging into daylight because he was tired of spring cleaning.

Theo Wicking, stutters and hesitates his shy, nervous mole to perfection, after all this is not a creature used to being above ground, daylight, or indeed meeting other creatures.

Then there is Badger, given a rather ponderous and pompous demeanour by Sammy Lees. His badger is the elder statesman of the willows, a creature who had known Toad’s father, and his grandfather and his uncle, the archdeacon. If you had a penny for every time he tells you that you would be retired in your villa on the Costa Del Sol before the curtain call.

These are the goodies, and you can’t have a children’s tale without baddies, so enter Isaac King Hill as a sort of Peaky Blinders style Chief Weasel, who we could perhaps best describe as portraying enthusiastic evil as he leads his merry band of weasels and ferrets on the rampage, a band that includes Zayn Springer, Eddie Faizey, Garret Awre, Joseph Callicott, Annie-May Iremonger, Jamie Lutont and Molly Scott.

Apart from their delight in being annoying little terrors, they also pop up as washerwomen, gypsies and even a court clerk, Eddie Faizey, for Joseph Kilker as the somewhat superior magistrate, who ekes out a living by also moonlighting as Owl.

And keeping the law we have the local constabulary in the shape of Cian Begleyl, pacing the willows and wild wood, truncheon at the ready, as well as doing a stint on jailer duty in the local nick.

Sammy Lees

Sammy Lees as badger, who knew Toad's father, and his grandfa . . . .z z z z

Adding a bit of drama we have Jess Donnelly at her wits’, or perhaps that should be whiskers’ end because she has lost her son Portley, found in the shape of Emmanuel Gashi, who was merely visiting Badger. I did ay it was only a bit of drama . . .

Then we have the social history side with the washer women and the policemen’s daughter Jenny, played in a lovely style by Amy Williams. She is one of the few human characters in the whole story, and the most significant, organising Toad’s escape from Jail.

When he is on the run we come across the barge woman, taking in washing, played by Millie Dodd, who, by the magic of theatre, can also be seen as Zelda, the leader of the gypsies, negotiating to buy Dobbin, a sterling performance from Jon Richardson as the front and  Daniel Robert Beaton as the horse’s . . . sorry, hind quarters.

Do not be surprised to see Dobbin return by popular demand (and to justify the cost) in Jack and the Beanstalk, come December.

Nibbling around the edges are the rabbits, Masie Jones, Olivia Edwards, Anika Kambo, and Courtney Smith Reid, who, in these austere times, have to take on extra roles as washerwomen and gypsies.

The story is simple. Toad is rich and impulsive with a butterfly mind flitting from fad to fad. We start with his passion for a caravan, pulled by Dobbin, which is wrecked when hit by a car, which, rather than anger, merely creates wonder in the mind of Toad who decides cars are the way to go.

And go they do especially when he nicks REG 1N which belongs to Reginald, Zayn Springer, who is desperately trying to impress girlfriend Fiona, Maisie Jones. Reg makes the mistake of leaving REG 1N unattended, which means it is TOAD 1 in seconds, until Toad finds himself helping police with their inquiries and gets 20 years.


On the run, Emily Smith's Toad disguised as a washerwoman after a dramatic(ish) jailbreak 

Weasels invade Toad Hall, Toad escapes, Weasels are defeated in stop action battle, sentence quashed and everyone lives happily ever after . . . got that.

As a show it has some lovely touches opening with Ratty in a rope powered and very realistic boat, then there is the caravan, or at least its front. Come the crash, turn it around an you have the debris. Much the same with the front of a car which is brought to life with some clever sound effects, well timed by Zayn, as the door is opened and closed and starting handle turned.

Full marks too for the excellent costumes from a team of six, it makes such a difference when costumes look the part, and these did, especially for the leads with their Edwardian three-piece tweeds and morning coats.

As for make-up? Students from University College Birmingham have done a fabulous job creating the faces of Toad, with his amphibian’s beauty spots, Ratty – love the teeth – nervous Mole and monochrome Badger.

And it did not stop there, weasels and rabbits were all treated to equally delightful treatment.

Joint directors Roy Palmer and Daniel Robert Beaton have manufactured a cracking pace, with nice touches such as the fight in still motion, flashes like photographs between moments of darkness, much more effective as a series of tableaux rather than a half-baked, scruffy fight.

Another nice touch came from musical director Richard Woodward who has composed music along with some songs from Theo Wickling and Emily Smith and Jess Donnelly to add to the script from the late Birmingham born John Morley.

There has been a sea change with Hall Green’s youth theatre, something which started with Alice and a new crop of youngsters coming through, and that has continued with this well acted and well produced production for all the family. To 19-10-19

Roger Clarke


Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate